Eliminating the Effects of Trigger Thumb By Staff Writer





Trigger thumb is a common repetitive strain injury that can cause significant impairment in hand strength, dexterity, and daily functioning.  The condition is characterized by pain and catching in the thumb, and it can result in difficulty performing everyday tasks.  Although there are many organic causes of trigger thumb, environmental factors (e.g., workplace conditions and job demands) usually play a significant role.

Trigger Thumb (or stenosing tenosynovitis, as it is also known) is the result of acute trauma or a chronic overuse injury involving the flexor tendon that runs through the thumb.  Specifically, the flexor pollicis longus tendon develops nodules or adhesions, which in turn leads to increased friction as the tendon passes through the pulley system, resulting in the swelling of the tendon and the associated nodules.  This inflammation and irritation increases the size of the nodules or adhesions, causing the dysfunction to greatly increase, which in turn impedes the movement of the tendon at the metacarpophalangeal joint.  Essentially, the nodule or adhesion on the affected tendon in the thumb gets trapped as it passes through the pulley system which causes the finger to lock down into the palm of the hand as well as produces the painful catching or clicking that is commonly associated with Trigger Thumb.

Trigger Thumb is a more common injury in women than men, and it is more often noticed in people that are suffering from chronic illnesses.  Rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes, for example, are common correlates of Trigger Thumb.  The reason for this seems to be caused by the speed in which people heal from injury, and people with chronic disorders like diabetes and arthritis tend to heal at a much slower rate. However, movement also plays a significant role in the manifestation of the malady.  Repetitive movements and increased tension, stress and strain on the hands through heavy lifting, typing, and long hours at a steering wheel can lead to Trigger Thumb as well.

There are numerous treatment options for reducing the pain and impairment associated with thumb and finger triggering.  Often rest and over-the-counter medications are enough to bring temporary relief and possibly reduce the rate of onset due to reduced irritation and swelling of the tissues.  Individuals looking for long-term treatment for Trigger Thumb, however, are advised to consider appropriate stretches and exercises that promote the integrity of the muscles and tendons in the hand and forearm.  Stretches that help thin and lengthen the affected tendon and exercises that increase circulation and break down the developing adhesions and nodules, most often formed from scar tissue, are very important.  Although surgery is the most used method of treatment, it is far from effective.  Non-invasive exercises promoting the stretching of the flexor tendons and strengthening the extensor tendons shows great promise in preventing and treating this disorder.

Always consult your physician prior to making a decision about your healthcare.